How Can You be Happy In Your Career?

In 2010, Harvard Business School’s graduating class asked Professor Clay Christensen to speak to them about how to apply his principles and thinking around developing new technologies and building new growth businesses to their personal lives. In response, he shared with them a set of guidelines that have helped him find meaning in his own life.

First he explained that on the last day of class, he asks his studens to use the same techniques they learned in class to form answers to three questions:

  1. How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
  3. How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

These are tough questions to answer, including the 3rd one, which on its surface, is quite funny.  However, considering that 2 of the 32 people in Prof. Christensen’s Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail and that Jeff Skilling of Enron was a classmate of his at HBS, well, you get the picture.

How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?

Remember that finding happiness in your career has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.

As Prof. Christensen explained, “Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”

Spend 10 or 15 minutes jotting down all the ways you can maximize your happiness at work.  What is something new you’d like to learn? What project would you like to take on? How can you help others within your organization? How can your supervisor better recognize your hard work?

Then distribute those questions to your employees or direct reports.  Their answers can guide you to become a more effective leader.

In my next post, we’ll focus on the second and third questions.

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